As the fire season continues in B.C. and crews continue to battle blazes right across the province, it’s imperative on residents living in interface areas to make sure their homes are protected from wildfire.
Communities in the Central Okanagan, like many parts of B.C., are located in the middle of the forest.
These are the interface areas and Lake Country deputy fire chief Brent Penner says residents can help avoid a situation where their home is in danger.
“With communities built in interface areas it’s a recommended good practice to have a buffer zone around your house,” said Penner.
“It’s like a fire break. If there is a ground fire we can deal with that but that can lead to the trees and the fire goes from the ground up the tree and the tree can candle and create a huge amount of energy.
“Sometimes you can have a fire that will actually run on the canopy of the tree tops.”
Wildland forest fires are capable of spreading at an astonishing rate, often moving at up to 5.5 kilometres per hour, with spotting as far as two kilometres ahead.
Wind-blown grass fires can spread at speeds up to 8.5 kilometres per hour.
Over the last 10 years, on average more than 2,500 wildfires were started in British Columbia each year consuming over 25,000 hectares of forested land annually.
If you live in or near a forested region of our province, sooner or later you may have to contend with the spread of a wildfire. The best protection against loss, damage or injury due to wildfire is prevention.
Here are some steps to take as outlined in the B.C. Firesmart manual for homeowners.
• Any kind of vegetation is combustible. Mature trees, shrubs, grass, even your woodpile, are all potential fuels and can easily ignite (increasing the chance of building ignition and loss.) Managing the space around your house and buildings is of prime importance Do you have a cleared zone around your house and buildings?
The first 10 metres of space around your home is your first priority. It’s the most critical area to consider for fire protection. A good fuel-free space gives firefighters a chance to save your home from an advancing fire. A home without a good fuel-free space around it can make firefighting difficult, if not impossible.
What to do?
Remove any shrubs, trees, deadfall or woodpiles from this area and keep your grass mowed and watered.
• From 10 to 30 metres out from your home is the second priority zone. In this zone, you need to reduce fuels by thinning and pruning so that combustion cannot be supported.
What to do?
Remove trees and debris that can spread fire upwards to become a fast spreading crown fire. Space trees so that the crowns of individual trees are three to six metres apart.
Remove or reduce the number of evergreen trees in the area. Evergreens such as pine and spruce are much more combustible than deciduous trees. In fact, aspen, poplar and birch all have very low flammability rates.
• The third priority zone begins 30 metres from any structure and extends to a distance of 100 metres and beyond. The idea here is not to remove all combustible fuels from the forest, but to thin the area so fires will be of low intensity and more easily extinguished.
Download the Fire Smart B.C. homeowner PDF at http://www.embc.gov.bc.ca/ofc/interface/pdf/homeowner-firesmart.pdf.